By Tony Eberhard, Vice President, Legislative Affairs
On October 30th, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Collin Peterson (D-MN-07), Mike Simpson (R-ID-02), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) introduced legislation named the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that, importantly, would provide dairy a year-round visa program it could utilize. IDFA has weighed in with key House offices in support of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, joining over 250 agricultural groups behind this legislation.
The road to final passage for any immigration bill in Congress is a rough one. However, it is encouraging that the Farm Workforce Modernization Act has a great deal of bipartisan support, including 44 original cosponsors representing nearly every agriculture region in the country. It is anticipated that the House Judiciary Committee will bring the bill up for passage next week, with consideration on the floor of the House to follow closely thereafter. It appears that this effort is gaining momentum.
With regard to the year-round provisions in the bill for dairy, know that the bill creates both temporary 3-year visas and increased access to green cards. Specifically, the legislation dedicates an additional 40,000 green cards per year (half for dairy) for agricultural workers that can be used by employers to sponsor workers to fill unmet permanent agricultural labor needs. The bill also creates an option for H-2A workers to apply directly after completing 10 years of H-2A work in the United States. Meanwhile, it creates a new, capped program for employers seeking to bring in temporary workers to fill year-round needs, though the Secretaries of Agriculture and Labor would be able to increase visa caps should market conditions warrant increases. Additionally, this bill would, among other things, make changes to the current H-2A agricultural guest worker visa program.
Though no immigration bill will be perfect, IDFA is encouraged that Congress is taking action to address this critical issue.
A fact sheet on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act can be found here: https://newhouse.house.gov/sites/newhouse.house.gov/files/Bipartisan%20Farm%20Workforce%20Modernization%20Act%20-%20One%20Pager.pdf
The full bill text of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act can be found here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4916/text